By CARL SMITH
Reported cases of human West Nile virus contraction have almost tripled last year’s reported figures.
Monday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 26 new cases of the mosquito-borne virus, bringing the state’s 2012 total to 140 cases and four confirmed deaths.
In 2011, MSDH reported 52 cases of human WNV exposure and five WNV-related deaths.
On Monday, new cases were reported in Bolivar (1), Calhoun (1), Copiah (2), Forrest (1), Hinds (1), Jackson (2), Jasper (2), Leake (1), Madison (6), Marion (1), Rankin (5), Sunflower (1), Walthall (1) and Yazoo (1) counties.
MSDH only reports laboratory-confirmed cases to the public.
Three counties within the Jackson metropolitan area — Hinds (14), Madison (13) and Rankin (32) — are the only counties in the state with double-digit confirmed cases.
Two WNV-related deaths were confirmed in Rankin County, while an individual death was confirmed in both Smith and Lincoln counties.
MSDH Deputy Epidemiologist Paul Beyers said scientists do not have a clear understanding why such contrasting disparity exists from year to year in regard to human WNV contraction.
“In previous years, we’ve had reported numbers nearing the 200 mark. There is a definite variability of cases reported on a yearly basis, but it’s very difficult to pinpoint precisely what causes it,” he said. “Our concern right now is we’re in the most active part of year (for WNV infection). July through September, even going into October, that’s when we see the most cases reported each year. We really want folks to look at this and really be careful.”
The last MSDH-confirmed human contraction of WNV in Oktibbeha County was in 2007; however, MSDH tested seven people the following year and reported one case of avian-contracted WNV.
Starkville and Oktibbeha County agents say mosquito-eradication efforts will continue locally with spray techniques until warmer temperatures decline as the seasons change.
Larry Black, a street manager with the city’s public works department, said spray efforts increased this year due to increased rainfall. City workers use one truck to spray an area of town at a time. Once crews finish spraying the entire town, Black said they start the process over from the beginning.
Residents, Black said, can call the city and request spot sprays if an area’s mosquito population grows rapidly.
“It feels like we’ve been constantly spraying over the past three months. When we get (spot-spray requests), we stop and go to those locations immediately,” he said. “Our calls really picked up this year with the rains and the news of increased West Nile cases. It seems like once new cases are reported, everyone starts calling in (requesting spot spraying).
Oktibbeha County Road Manager Victor Collins said his department divides the county between two spray trucks. Crews, he said, begin spraying in more-populated areas while working their way to the most outlying parts of Oktibbeha County.
“A week and three days: that’s basically what it takes us to get everyone,” Collins said. “We’ll probably spray out through this month and next until the temperatures cool and the threat of mosquitoes goes down. Until that temperature drops, as long as it’s warmer weather, we’ll be out spraying for mosquitoes.”